Why Agile isn’t Enough Part 4: Lean Startup Learn Phase and BA Techniques that Enhance it
3 Things to Learn
- What customers really need and want, not just what they say they do (in Business Analysis, we constantly strive for that, right?).
- Which elements of our strategy are working (or not). That helps the team to maintain the strategy or modify it.
- Whether we’re on the right track to delivering a viable, sustainable product or business. If we are on the right track, we persevere; if not, we need to pivot.
Persevere or Pivot?
- If the metrics show we are moving toward the goals, then the startup can and should persevere.
- If the metrics are not moving us close enough to the target, we can design new experiments to test possible new features. Maybe we were testing the wrong thing. But failing that, or if we cannot generate new hypotheses, it is time to pivot – either by changing the product or to cancel it outright. I can attest that is a difficult decision having had to make it more than once.
Examples of Pivots: The Importance of Learning
- Did you know that YouTube began as a video dating service with a slogan of “Tune in, hook up”? It did not grow as they had hoped until they discovered the appeal of a general video sharing service they are today.
- Groupon started as a platform for rallying people to social and charitable causes but started to fade after some initial success. They added a subdomain that pooled people together to receive discounts and that feature proved far more popular.
- In 2004 Yelp was a service where friends could ask each other for direct recommendations for things, which was not moving the company towards their goals. When they learned users were writing reviews for fun, they pivoted to focusing just on reviews that is their business today.
Learn/Decide – 9 Techniques
- Lean startup methodology relies on the Build-Measure-Learn cycle. It is focused on learning and delivering on what customers really need vs. what they say they do. What could be more important?
- Building – focus on finding “problems worth solving” and start by building an MVP, which is the fewest trips through the B-M-L cycle to build a product that provides the most validated learning.
- Measuring – valid measurements are the unsung heroes of a successful startup. Without valid measures we can’t learn as quickly or maybe not at all. Remember to avoid “Vanity Metrics” and collect “Metrics that Matter” using AAA metrics –Actionable, Accessible, and Auditable. They are essential to learning what customers need.
- Learning – is the acknowledged key to making Lean Startups succeed. We need to learn what customers really need and want, not what we think or what they tell us. We also use that learning to facilitate “persevere or pivot” sessions.
- Techniques – there are several proven, standard Business Analysis techniques that can help at every stage of the Build-Measure-Learn cycle. Not an exhaustive list to be sure, but we covered 20 of them and have a summary of the 20 as a free downloadable “template” available on https://www.watermarklearning.com/resources/templates.php.
 Eric Ries, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, New York: Crown Business Books, 2011
 5 Big Brands That Had Massively Successful Pivots¸ Published February 15, 2018. Downloaded June 12, 2019. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/308975